Robur the Conqueror
Chapter 13. Over The Caspian
The Engineer had no intention of taking his ship over the wondrous lands of
Hindustan. To cross the Himalayas was to show how admirable was the machine
he commanded; to convince those who would not be convinced was all he
wished to do.
But if in their hearts Uncle Prudent and his colleague could not help admiring so
perfect an engine of aerial locomotion, they allowed none of their admiration to
be visible. All they thought of was how to escape. They did not even admire the
superb spectacle that lay beneath them as the "Albatross" flew along the river
banks of the Punjab.
At the base of the Himalayas there runs a marshy belt of country, the home of
malarious vapors, the Terai, in which fever is endemic. But this offered no
obstacle to the "Albatross," or, in any way, affected the health of her crew. She
kept on without undue haste towards the angle where India joins on to China and
Turkestan, and on the 29th of June, in the early hours of the morning, there
opened to view the incomparable valley of Cashmere.
Yes! Incomparable is this gorge between the major and the minor Himalayas--
furrowed by the buttresses in which the mighty range dies out in the basin of the
Hydaspes, and watered by the capricious windings of the river which saw the
struggle between the armies of Porus and Alexander, when India and Greece
contended for Central Asia. The Hydaspes is still there, although the two towns
founded by the Macedonian in remembrance of his victory have long since
During the morning the aeronef was over Serinuggur, which is better known
under the name of Cashmere. Uncle Prudent and his companion beheld the
superb city clustered along both banks of the river; its wooden bridges stretching
across like threads, its villas and their balconies standing out in bold outline, its
hills shaded by tall poplars, its roofs grassed over and looking like molehills; its
numerous canals, with boats like nut-shells, and boatmen like ants; its palaces,
temples, kiosks, mosques, and bungalows on the outskirts; and its old citadel of
Hari-Pawata on the slope of the hill like the most important of the forts of Paris on
the slope of Mont Valerien.
"That would be Venice," said Phil Evans, "if we were in Europe."
"And if we, were in Europe," answered Uncle Prudent, "we should know how to
find the way to America."
The "Albatross" did not linger over the lake through which the river flows, but
continued her flight down the valley of the Hydaspes.
For half an hour only did she descend to within thirty feet of the river and
remained stationary. Then, by means of an india-rubber pipe, Tom Turner and
his men replenished their water supply, which was drawn up by a pump worked
by the accumulators. Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans stood watching the
operation. The same idea occurred to each of them. They were only a few feet
from the surface of the stream. They were both good swimmers. A plunge would
give them their liberty; and once they had reached the river, how could Robur get